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been. The auxiliary verb be is not always the sign of the passive voice. With the present participle of transitive verbs, it denotes the present-imperfect tense of the active voice : as 'I am loving,' I am striking.'
It is also employed in the present-imperfect tense of intran. sitive verbs, which are never used in the passive; as, 'I am walking,' 'I am coming,' 'I am going.' These would be rendered in Latin, ambulo, venio, eo. See 346.
II. AUXILIARIES OF MOOD.
377. Several verbs, all more or less defective in their own conjugation, are used as auxiliaries to express the notions of possibility, permission, obligation, or necessity. The most remarkable of these are, may, can, must, dare, let, ought. The principal verb, dependent upon them, follows in the infinitive mood; and the particle to is generally omitted before the infinitive, but not always.
1. We might, 2. Thou mightest,
2. You might, 3. He might,
3. They might. This verb expresses permission: as, 'He may go, if he likes.' It is also used to express a prayer, a wish, or a desire; in which case it precedes the subject-nominative: as, 'May he prosper,'
May they be happy.' The beggars in Cork reverse this order : as, The Lord may bless you,' 'The Lord may spare you to your family.'
1. We can,
2. You can,
3. They can.
1. We could, 2. Thou couldst,
2. You could, 3. He could,
3. They could. This verb denotes power, or capability, and is used to form what some grammarians call the Potential Mood. The verb can (A.-S. cunnan) originally signifies to know,' and then
to be able; ' like savoir in French, as je sais le faire, 'I know how to do it,' that is, 'I can (to) do it.' The past tense of the Anglo-Saxon verb is cuðe (cudhe), whence the Old English coud. The form could' has arisen from false analogy, from a fancied resemblance to would and should. But in these words l is part of the root; whereas in 'could' it is quite superfluous.
Plural. 1. I must,
1. We must, 2. Thou must,
2. You must, 3. He must,
3. They must. This verb is used to denote necessity. It has no inflection whatever, and there is some difficulty in determining the question of tense. Dr. Latham says (English Language, 607):'I can only say of this form (must) that it is common to all persons, numbers, and tenses.' But compare Adams (Elements of the English Language, S 366).
For my own part, I have always felt the want of a past tense in this auxiliary. For example, when we wish to translate from German such a phrase as er musste gehen, we cannot say 'he must go.' We are obliged to give the sertence a turn : ' he was obliged to go,'' he was bound to go,' he had to go.' We do, indeed, sometimes hear the phrase ' he must needs go;' but the past tense of the verb must seems confined to that construction.
1. We dare or durst, 2. Thou darest or durst, 2. You dare or durst, 3. He dares, dare, or durst, 3. They dare or durst.
1. We dared or durst, 2. Thou daredst or durst, 2. You dared or durst, 3. He dared or durst,
3. They dared or durst. Dr. Latham says (English Language, § 598):—'Dare, durst. -The verb dare is both transitive and intransitive.
We can say either I dare do such a thing, or I dare (challenge) such a man to do it. This, in the present tense, is unequivocally correct. In the perfect, the double power of the word dare is ambiguous; still it is, to my mind at least, allowable. We can certainly say, I dared him to accept my challenge ; and we can perhaps say, I dared not venture on the expedition. In this last sentence, however, durst is preferable. Durst is intransitive only. Dare can be used only in the present tense, dared in the perfect only. Durst can be used in either.'
This verb is derived from the A.-S. lætan, past tense let, perfect participle læten, which, according to Dr. Bosworth, bears four significations:
1. To let, suffer, permit, to let be, leave-sinere.
4. To admit, think, suppose, pretend—admittere, putare. Mr. Wedgewood, in his Etymological Dictionary, endeavours to account for the two senses of let, apparently the reverse of each other—(1) 'to allow, permit,' or even to take measures for the execution of a purpose,' as when we say, ' let me alone,
let me go, let me have a letter to-morrow;' and (2) to hinder,' as ‘I was let hitherto.'
In his opinion the idea of slackening lies at the root of both applications of the term. When we speak of letting one go,' • letting him do something,' we conceive of him as previously restrained by a band, the loosening or slackening of which will permit the execution of the act in question. Thus the Latin laxare, 'to slacken,' was used in later times in the sense of its modern derivatives, Italian lasciare, French laisser, 'to let.' So modicum laxa stare, 'let it stand a little while: 'Muratori, Diss. 24, p. 365.
At other times, Mr. Wedgewood thinks, the slackness is attributed to the agent himself, when let acquires the sense of "be slack in action, delay,' or 'omit doing.
And down he goth, no longer would he let,
Chaucer. Then in a causative sense to let one from doing a thing is to make him let or omit to do it,''to hinder his doing it.'
On the other hand, Richardson thinks that in let we have two distinct verbs, the same in spelling, but different in meaning : 1. Let, to give leave,' permit,' he connects with Ger.
lassen, Ital. lasciare, Fr. laisser, 'to relax,' 'loosen.' 2. Let, 'to retard, delay, hinder,' he connects with Goth. latyan, and the adjective loet, late.'
. It is in the first of these significations that let is an auxiliary in English, commonly used in the first and third persons of the Imperative Mood. Singular.
Plural. 1. Let me go,
1. Let us go, 3. Let him go,
3. Let them go. In Cork, the same auxiliary is frequently used with the second person : as, ' let you sit here,' let you go away.'
1. We ought, 2. Thou oughtest, 2. You ought, 3. He ought,
3. They ought.